STUDIO: Touchstone/Disney
MSRP: $39.99
RUNNING TIME: 598 Minutes

The Pitch

Season 4 of Tim Allen breaking more shit than he fixes.

The Humans

Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Taran Noah Smith, Zachary Ty Bryan, Earl Hindman, Richard Karn, Debbe Dunning.

"Tim and I use each other’s tools all the time. Right Tim?"

The Nutshell

Tim Allen returns as Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, the cable show host and home fix-it nut who is able to put together a car engine or build a house like a pro, but is still a complete amateur when it comes to his family. Patricia Richardson is his wife, Jill, who has to constantly cash the checks his ego writes. Smith, Bryan and Thomas are his three mischievous kids who specialize in getting themselves, each other and especially Tim into trouble. Earl Hindman is Tim’s sage neighbor, Wilson, who helps Tim find his way when his over-enthusiasm, machismo or ego lead him astray, which is pretty much every episode. Tim’s assistant on Tool Time, his cable show, is the trustworthy butt of Tim’s jokes, Al (Karn). Debbe Dunning rounds out the cast as the occasional Tool Time cheesecake, Heidi.

"So look, Wilson bet me his ’68 GTO against getting you as his sex slave in a game of Texas Hold ‘em and well, wouldn’t you know that goddamned ace would show up when it did…"

The Lowdown

Well this is review #3 for me and Tim and company (Season 1 here and Season 3 here). Not much more to say that I haven’t said before. Basically I don’t do sitcoms, especially family sitcoms anymore because I can’t take the pre-fabbed wholesomeness of them with the lessons taught and the laugh tracks. They don’t age well because many of them frequently rely on contemporary laughs that can lose their bite even a year down the road. The worst of these are dreck like Full House. But if I had to sit through a recent sitcom, Home Improvement is one of the ones I can tolerate the most. In fact, it’s pretty much one of the best sitcoms to come along in the last 15 years or so. And Season 4 was when the show was in its stride, only halfway through its eight-year run.

One of these is a chick with a smokin’ body, awesome high beams and is built to go real fast. The other is Debbe Dunning.

This particular season saw a few changes come the show’s way, including Jill going back to school after having been laid off from her job. This has the effect of making Tim paranoid that he’ll lose her to a more scholarly type than he himself is (Back in the Saddle Shoes Again). In one of the more memorable episodes, Tim accidentally drops a three-ton construction I-beam on Jill’s prized classic Nomad during a live taping of the show. This is especially ironic because he had hounded her about having gotten a small scratch on it. He then tries to keep the little fact of her car’s destruction from Jill (Don’t Tell Momma).

Other episodes include My Dinner With Wilson, where Tim has to try to get Wilson to reconsider when he plans on moving during Thanksgiving. In Brother, Can You Spare a Hot Rod, Tim decides to build another hot rod after selling his old one. Bachelor of the Year finds Al being named as such and having women throw themselves at him; and Tim’s son Mark decides to write a report about Wilson, instead of Tim because Wilson is the most interesting person he knows. A Marked Man finds Tim and Jill dealing with Mark possibly having stolen a pocket knife; and Wilson’s Girlfriend concerns Jill fixing Wilson up for his first date in twenty years and Tim finding himself in the reverse role of giving Wilson advice.

What made this show work was of course Allen’s rapport with Hindman, Karn and Richardson and the fairly sharp writing. The stuff with the kids always put me off, and the set usually looked exactly like the soundstage that it was shot on, but aside from that, there was usually more to enjoy than not about the show.

"I hate to tell you this Tim, but your alias, ToolPigeon, isn’t fooling anyone…"

The Package

The cover art is passable, with a weird diagonal cut and pullout sleeve. The look of the show is TV standard and tape, but otherwise the quality is fine and there’s the boilerplate Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The only feature is a six-minute blooper reel. Whoopee.

6.7 out of 10